What is Nurse Burnout?
Burnout is caused by chronic and unmanaged workplace stress. It can result in mental and physical exhaustion, mental distance or cynicism about the job and reduced energy in the workplace.
This is a common occurrence in nursing since nurses work long hours of physically and emotionally demanding tasks.
What Causes Burnout?
Nurse burnout can be caused by a number of things. Working long hours on your feet, providing compassionate care and changing shift schedules can all be very taxing on a nurse. Systematic challenges in the healthcare system make these aspects of the job even more difficult, due to things like shortages of nurses leading to longer shifts and greater demands during those shifts.
The burnout in nurses also can stem from being frequently exposed to human suffering. Working daily with patients in physical and mental pain, as well as seeing death and grieving families so often can understandably lead to intense burnout.
A moral injury can also cause burnout. A moral injury is a psychological wound that happens when a person feels they must take or witness actions that violate their moral beliefs. It can also describe the challenges of knowing what kind of care your patient needs but being unable to provide it due to factors that are beyond your control.
Even though the consequences of nurse burnout can be severe they are manageable and can even be prevented. Some early warning signs to be on the lookout for are:
- Exhaustion and fatigue
- Cynicism and decreased career satisfaction
- Increased preference towards isolation
- Change in bedside manner
- Poor judgement calls
- Feelings of helplessness
There are a few strategies nurses can take after identifying these signs in themselves. Things like prioritizing sleep, checking in with co-workers or meditation apps can keep the burnout from becoming a serious problem, or alleviate symptoms of someone already struggling. Experts also say self-care and self-reflection can help, like eating a well-balanced diet, exercising and reflecting on emotions at the end of the day. If your current schedule does not allow for these things, try talking to your supervisor. Nurse burnout and patient safety go hand in hand, so being honest about burnout is important.
Leadership also can take the initiative to prevent burnout in their nurses. Having an open-door policy for nurses to be honest about burnout signs they may be feeling can help reduce stress and prevent the burnout from becoming an issue.
Resources for Help with Burnout
Think you may be experiencing signs of burnout? Here are a few resources to help!
Healthy nurse nation – https://www.healthynursehealthynation.org/